Sikorsky’s Matrix technology turns the Black Hawk into a fully automated unmanned helicopter. The device has just carried out demonstrations of freight and medical transport in a completely autonomous way.
Among the combat helicopters, one of the best known remains the American Black Hawk of Sikorski (Lockheed Martin). It is a kind of Swiss army knife, since it is able to transport troops, to carry out medical evacuations and to carry out air support missions thanks to two optional side machine guns.
The Black Hawk is almost 50 years old and yet it is still being used and modernized. A stealth version was even developed in 2011 to eliminate Osama Bin Laden, the leader of Al-Qaeda, who was hiding in Pakistan. Today, this same Black Hawk has transformed into a drone to carry out a rescue and cargo transport operation. There was not even a telepilot, since the helicopter carried out its maneuvers completely autonomously.
These demonstrations took place over several days in mid-October at Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona, USA. They were part of the PC22 (Project Convergence 2022), an event bringing together American, British and Australian soldiers and specialists. Each year, they come to evaluate 300 new military technologies.
Transforming the helicopter into a drone allows it to carry out missions that would be too dangerous for the crew. The pilot and his teammate then become optional. For the purposes of the experiment, a UH-60A Black Hawk was modernized with the integration of a navigation system called Alias designed by Darpa with autonomous technology developed by Sikorsky and bearing the name Matrix. Not much more is known about how these technologies work.
Here is the Black Hawk transformed into a drone to carry out its cargo transport and rescue missions autonomously and without crew. © Sikorsky, Lockheed Martin
The pilot becomes an option
With all of the helicopter’s sensors, the system takes control to control its flight according to the wind and can take off and land on its own. During the demonstration, the Black Hawk lifted 225 kg of human blood with a sling and traveled 136 km at approximately 185 km/h at an altitude reduced to 60 meters to pass under radar coverage. Without landing, the aircraft then delivered its load automatically after receiving a diversion order from a ground operator. On its new position, the helicopter landed and waited for the boarding of a victim on a stretcher. No human again, since it was a dummy.
The helicopter then took off again towards a medical station. On board, an automated medical system made it possible to transmit the records of the victim’s condition in real time to the medical team. Statements that we imagine virtual or simulated for the occasion. With the success of these demonstrations, Sikorsky was pleased with the efficiency and reliability of the system. The manufacturer considers that it is now ready to be operational and integrated into the army.
This is not the first demonstration of this type. In fact, this Black Hawk had already made an autonomous flight to show its maneuverability last January. In the future, with this type of helicopter, making the pilot optional, and the various aerial drones, or even the explosive marine drones used in Ukraine, there will be little more than the soldiers to be replaced by robot soldiers, to keep away human struggles.